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Roanoke safety experts encourage safe swimming this summer

Safety recommendations issued for the pool, the lake and other bodies of water

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ROANOKE, Va. – It's swimming season for kids throughout the Roanoke Valley. Whether they're in the pool or the lake, the water can be dangerous for even the best swimmers.

Safety experts say regardless of how well your kids can swim, it's important for parents to keep a close eye on them while they're in the water.

If you're swimming with your kids, keep them within arm's reach. If you're not in the pool, keep a close eye on them from the pool deck.

Tiffany Bradbury, the community risk reduction specialist with Roanoke Fire EMS, says parents shouldn't count on inflatable arm swimmies or a tube to keep younger kids afloat. Instead, put them in a life jacket when they're in or around the water.

Hot temperatures can lead to overheating, which can make swimming more difficult.

She says dressing kids in brightly colored swim clothes or bathing suits can make them easier to spot in the worst-case scenarios. 

"We see movies and you think a child is going to be thrashing around and you're going to hear them if they're drowning, but that's not true," says Bradbury. "Children drown silently. A lot of times in our backyard pools they'll be at three feet, everybody is good and then it drops off quickly."

Lakes create even more difficult swimming conditions as the water is much deeper than the typical pool and the bottom of the lake is made up of peaks and valleys.

Smith Mountain Lake also has rocks, trees and even some structures beneath the surface, all additional obstacles for swimmers. Recent rain is also leading to muddy and murky water, which can mean dangerous conditions for swimmers.

"Everything is going to be really up because of all of the rain," says Bradbury. "There's going to be a lot of debris underneath the surface, so don't dive head first. You can very quickly get entangled in things that are in the lakes, so just use good common sense when swimming."

If your child is missing, Bradbury says you should check nearby pools, ponds and other bodies of water first, then check inside cars. She says pulling toys out of the water once everyone is finished playing can cut down on the temptation for kids to get in the water when parents aren't around.

Bradbury says it's also a good idea to have conversations with kids early about the importance of always having an adult nearby if they're going to get in any water.

Bradbury says you don't have to be certified in CPR to learn the basics of how to do it. Anyone with young kids should learn CPR by watching an online video or reading the most updated recommendations here.